Sunday, December 8, 2013

Battle of Campbell's Station


 As Wheeler’s cavalry were trying Knoxville’s “back door” around Maryville, Longstreet moved to strike Burnside head-on. On the night of the 13 November the Confederates executed a nearly flawless river crossing under the most difficult of circumstances. After dark the boats were manhandled to the water and the bridge thrown with a minimum of resistance. Fleeing Federal pickets spread the alarm. It was no matter for Burnside had no intention of contesting his bridgehead. His primary goal was to delay Longstreet long enough to evacuate his advanced forces into the city.

  BG Edward Ferrero’s division had been detailed to watch for the Confederate crossing in the vicinity of Loudon. Unbeknownst to Longstreet his maneuver was neither unexpected nor undetected. Ferraro’s men rushed to Huff’s Ferry, arriving about 2200. While keeping an eye on Longstreet’s movement and skirmishing with his pickets Ferraro was called back to Burnside’s headquarters. He was instructed to fall back slowly “so as to draw the enemy over the river and keep him engaged while other important movements were being carried out by the army in Middle Tennessee.”

  In a driving rain Ferrero began the slow retreat. Both sides struggled on the muddy roads. Ferrero attached regiments of troops to each piece of artillery to help move them after the teams started giving out. Slowly they made their way back to Lenoir’s Station. Here they fought off “several attacks on my picket line,”

  The following morning they began a movement back to Campbell’s Station. Longstreet now saw the Union strategy and was determined to make quick work of the retreating forces before they could reach the city. He wanted no part of time consuming siege operations if they could be avoided. His plan involved forced marches northeast on the Kingston Road to cut Burnside’s escape route. Both men realized the race to Campbell’s Station was on. The winner would have a decided advantage. The hard marching Confederates gained a slight lead but Burnside countered with one of his best decisions of the war. He ordered all nonessential equipment abandoned. Wagons and extra caissons were left mired and three regiments were veered away to delay Micah Jenkins’ (Hood’s) division. At the same time a group of “500 or 600 mounted men “ and a battery were rushed forward to take control of the critical junction of the Concord and Kingston Roads. They arrived fifteen minutes ahead of the lead elements of Longstreet.

  As the Union retreat continued the Federal rear guard continued to delay. They “skirmished with us for every hill and wood and stream on the road.” The resulting delay allowed the main body to establish a line on the Kingston Road. Longstreet quickly developed a plan for not only cutting them off from their Knoxville works but crushing them in place. MG Lafayette McLaws formed in the front of the Union position and held their attention while BG Evander Law’s brigade was sent on a flanking march around the Federal left. This movement was detected by Burnside from a nearby hill and he ordered an adjustment to the Federal line. While this move was being accomplished McLaws men struck at the Union right and again on the right center. Both attacks were repulsed with heavy loss. Law never managed to get his men into the proper position and ended up scrambling the Confederate lines and disrupting the timing of the attack. Furthermore his men did not get deep enough to cut the road behind the Union forces. They were beaten back as was McLaws attempt at flanking the right of the Union line. Before any more efforts could be made darkness called an end to hostilities. During the night Burnside’s infantry retreated to Knoxville and 700 cavalry troopers delayed the Confederate advance until the evening of the 17th. Knoxville was gained and the shape of the campaign changed. Casualties totaled 570 for the Confederates and 320 for Burnside’s defenders. Law’s brigade suffered but 1 killed and 12 wounded in their weak effort.

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